Table insert (page 37)

Made of /*- or %-inch – thick acrylic plastic. Has three holes for mounting router base plate; sits in rabbet in top and fastened to cleats attached to underside of top

Table base

Made from 2-by-4 stock, featuring four legs, rails, and stretchers; assembled with simple joinery reinforced by screws.

Build to suggested dimensions, adapting elements for comfort and convenience



tion of the more useful ones is illustrated below and on page 37. Some items, like the speed control or remote switch, must be purchased. Others, such as fences or table inserts, can easily be fashioned in the shop for a fraction of the cost of their commercial counter­parts. One advantage of most commer-

them strong, but lighter than the aver­age wooden shop-made version. Better commercial fences also feature a wood­en face that can be trued on the jointer (page 45). Although most of these fences come with a built-in vacuum pick up, you can add this feature to a shop-built fence, as shown on page 50.


Features a guide pin that enables the device to be used like a pin router (page 72); can be used as a standard router table with guide pin removed...



The router table does for the router what a saw table accom­plishes for the circular saw blade. It transforms a portable tool into a stationary one—and in the case of the router, enables it to perform tasks that can normally be managed only with an expensive shaper.

Mounted upside down and fixed in position, the table-mounted router allows the operator to use both hands to feed a workpiece into the bit, producing safer, more con­sistent results. And because stock also can be guided along a fence, or by a miter gauge, a template, or a jig, table cuts can be executed with more precision. Another benefit of the router table is that larger cut­ters, like those shown starting on page 30, can be used. Such bits would be dangerous and virtually impossible to control in a hand-held tool.





Sharpening a non-piloted router bit

Use a benchstone to hone the inside faces of the cutting edges of a high-speed steel bit, like the one shown above. Holding the inside face of one cutting edge flat against the abrasive surface, rub it back and forth. Repeat with the other edge. Hone both faces equally to maintain the balance of the bit.

Sharpening a piloted bit

Remove the pilot bearing (page 26), then sharpen the bit as you would a non-piloted bit (page 32). For a carbide-tipped cutter like the one shown above, use a diamond sharpening file. Reinstall the bearing. If it does not rotate smoothly, spray a little bearing lubricant on it. If the bearing is worn out or damaged, replace it.


The cutting edges of router bits, par­ticularly those m...



There are several characteristics to look for when buying router bits; each of them is shown below and on page 25. As it cuts through wood, a bit should only contact the workpiece with its cutting edges; the body should never touch the wood. As shown in the photo at left, you can check for this feature by measuring the cutting circle of the bit— the distance between the cutting edges— and the wing diameter. In a properly made bit, the cutting circle diameter exceeds the body diameter; the differ­ence is known as side clearance.

A bit should also slice through wood with the edge of the cutter rather than the face. Two features make this possi-
blc. The first is the hook angle, which is the angle formed by the intersection between the cutting edge and the spin­ning axis of the bit...



A router is only as good as the bit it turns. The quality of the cuts you make will depend largely on the quality of the bits you use.

Recent developments in bit-making technology have increased the likeli­hood that your bits will begin sharp and stay sharp. And they have expanded the choices available to woodworkers, although those extra options can sometimes seem more confusing than helpful.

The first decision involves choos­ing the appropriate material for the bit. Most cutters are made from either high-speed steel (HSS) or high-speed steel with carbide cut­ting edges. HSS bits are adequate for working with softwood, but they will not stand up well to long-term use in dense hardwood...




y first encounter with timber framing was 13 years ago, when a friend enlist­ed me on raising day to help him erect the frame that he had spent the bet­ter part of the summer carving. It was a 2,500-square-foot saltbox with a one-story shed on one of the gable ends. At the end of the day I stood in awe at the magnifi­cent structure before us. Timber frames are their most spectacular at this point. Standing alone, the visual appearance of the frame exudes strength and durability.

As we closed in the house over the next few months, I had numerous occasions to admire the joinery and contemplate simpler methods of mortising...



Received wisdom has it that necessity is the mother of invention, but my best ideas seem to come from an idle mind, and are usually relevant to subjects I know little about. The WoodRat, mounted on the shop wall behind me in the photo at left, came from just such an idle thought: Although I was well taught at school, I had not cut a dovetail since then, and I wanted to find a better way of routing them.

Yet working with the router is to a large extent a business of making jigs, and jig­making often takes over from the work at hand and becomes an end in itself. I envi­sioned a single jig to hold both the wood and the router, replacing the need for multiple jigs. I called it the WoodRat.

Having an idea that no one else in the whole wide world has had is a euphoric expe-




hen I started working with wood half a century ago, the electric router saw only limited use in small shops. The machines were short on power and adjustments often proved difficult to make. And the bits! The high-speed steel bits dulled so quick­ly that you learned to sharpen them or made a cloud of fine sawdust instead of curly shav­ings. One advantage of steel was that you could grind your own cutter shapes; but you had to do that anyway because there just weren’t that many profiles available. And instead of a pilot bearing there was a steel post on the end of the bit that rode on the work, leaving a nice burnished surface just below the cut that had to be sanded out...